Kansas Football Rises On Shoulders - Or Brains - Of Defensive Ends

July 30, 2008

Provided By Pete Donovan, Media Director, Lott Trophy

Kansas football, not too long ago, was a footnote on Saturday afternoons in the fall. On the Lawrence campus, the gridiron boys were an afterthought to the knights of the hardwood.

And while KU basketball flourished last season — all the way to a national championship — the football program is now able to climb the same podium and receive its own plaudits.

And part of that success goes to the Jayhawks’ standout bookend defensive ends – John Larson and Russell Brorsen. And bookends is the appropriate adjective for these two since both are as skilled academically as they are athletically.

“A big, big factor that has to be recognized is we have a smart group of kids,” says KU Coach Mark Mangino.

Upstart Kansas went 12-1 last season and defeated Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. The Jayhawks were ranked No. 7 in the country, their highest ranking in 39 years. They were one of the great stories of 2007 on any sport landscape.

Larson and Brorsen are smart, but undersized. They both play at about 240-250 pounds; That’s the same weight some linebackers carry. But they are active, pursue well and just don’t make mistakes.

“We’ve had players in the past who couldn’t take it from the classroom to the field or from the practice field to the game,” said former Kansas defensive coordinator Bill Young. “This team can. (Larson and Brorsen) are about as intelligent defensive linemen as you could ask for.”

“We’re part of a defense that is very assignment sound,” says Larson.

For their contributions on the field and their excellence in the classroom, Larson and Brorsen have both been nominated for The Lott Trophy.

Named after Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, The Lott Trophy is awarded to college football’s Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. The Lott Trophy is the first college football award to equally recognize athletic performance and the personal character attributes of the player.

Sponsored by The Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation, the award is given to a player who exhibits the same characteristics Lott embodied during his distinguished career: Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity.

David Pollack of Georgia won the initial Lott Trophy in 2004. DeMeco Ryans of Alabama won the award in 2005 Daymeion Hughes of Cal was the recipient in 2006 and Glenn Dorsey of LSU in 2007. Georgia, Alabama, Cal and LSU each received $25,000 for their general scholarship funds. In four years, the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation has donated more than $450,000 to various charities, including the four universities.

Voters for the award include selected members of the national media, previous finalists, the Board of Directors of the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation, The IMPACT Foundation Board of Advisers comprised of retired NFL players and Master Coaches, a distinguished group of former head college coaches.

Larson and Brorsen were both academic All-Americans last year. Brorsen earning first team honors with a 3.96 grade point average in chemistry. He plans on entering dental school upon completing his graduate work. Larson, with a 3.69 GPA in economics, was named second-team AA. He plans on attending medical school.

And make no mistake, they are far from underachievers on the Kansas defense. Brorsen had 36 tackles last season and Larson had 43, including 12 for losses along with two interceptions and three forced fumbles.

It’s likely their future is not on the playing fields of the NFL, though.

“He’ll (Brorsen) cure some disease or invent the ever-burning light bulb at some point in his professional career,” says line coach Joe Bob Clements. “He’s a very talented individual.

“He’s also as tough a football player as I’ve ever been around. On the field, off the field, I don’t have to worry about him. You can tell him about something he can work on and he’s gong to work on it.”

Following their Cinderella success of a year ago, the bookend defensive ends are ready for their final chapter at Kansas.

“I think there’s been an effort to make sure everyone stays grounded,” says Brorsen. “I’m just looking forward to playing that first game. See if we can win some games again, get on a roll again.”

Mr. Brorsen and Mr. Larson are already on a roll. In life.

For more information about the Lott Trophy log on to http://lotttrophy.com/